Canadian doctor rallies colleagues against ‘tyrannical’ attack on conscience and sound medicine

LifeSite News

Steve Weatherbe

Dr. Martin Owen, a Calgary family doctor, has taken on the task of rousing his fellow practitioners to the danger posed to their integrity by policies being pushed by professional regulators in several provinces.

“My conscience is on the line,” Owen said in a chain e-letter. “If I lived in Ontario, I’d probably move my 7 children to another province so I could avoid the tyranny over my professional medical judgment and my conscience.”

Appalled by the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons’ new requirement for all doctors, regardless of moral objections, to do or refer abortions,  Owen has launched a website, freedomofconscience.ca, with Ezra Levant just before the latter’s Sun News Network folded, and sent chain e-letters to colleagues asking them to vote in a “poorly worded” CBC poll about the issue. And as with a chain letter, he has asked his recipients to pass his message on to 10 colleagues.

“The time has come when doctors now need to fight for the right not to perform abortions, prescribe birth control, or refer patients for controversial procedures,” the email stated. . . [Full text]

 

Saskatchewan policy forcing doctors to violate conscience fails to win enough support: final decision delayed

LifeSiteNews

Steve Weatherbe

A move to force Christian doctors in Saskatchewan to do abortions, assist at suicides, or refer patients to other willing doctors failed to win sufficient support at a meeting of the College of Physicians and Surgeons’ ruling council Thursday.

Faced with 4,400 hostile letters, many instigated by the Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, the council decided to continue discussion at an emergency meeting on Saturday, and likely to put off a final vote until June, after a full public consultation.

“They weren’t all on the same page at all,” said Colette Stang, the head of Saskatchewan Pro-Life Association. “So it was a bit of a relief. I was pleased the decision wasn’t made.”. . . [Full text]

Court challenge raises issue of “reasonable apprehension of bias”

Sean Murphy*

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario is facing a court challenge by the Christian Medical and Dental Society and the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies.  They have filed an application in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice asking for an injunction against enforcement of the College’s controversial new policy, Professional Obligations and Human Rights.  According to the application the College acknowledged that it had received 15,977 submissions during the second consultation concerning the policy, which ended on 20 February, 2015.  The great majority of submissions opposed the policy.

While the consultation ended on 20 February, a working group wrote the final version of the policy by 11 February, at least nine days before the consultation closed.  This is one of the factors that gives rise to concern about what the CMDS application calls either “actual bias” or “a reasonable apprehension of bias” on the part of the working group.

On this point, the statistics provided by the College are of interest.

analysisAccording to the briefing note supplied to the College Council, by 11 February, 2015 the College had received 3,105 submissions.  This means that 12,872 submissions were received from 12 to 20 February inclusive.  In other words, over 80% of the submissions in the second consultation were received after the final version of the policy was written.

Moreover, allowing sufficient time to receive feedback is only the beginning.  Having received them, one would expect that a working group seriously interested in feedback would allow sufficient time to review and analyse the submissions.

During the 64 days of consultation ending 11 February, the College received an average of almost 50 submissions per day.  There were 43 working days during that period.  Assuming someone spent eight full hours every working day reading the submissions, it would have taken one person about seven minutes to review each one.

analysisHowever, during the nine days of consultation ending 20 February, the College received an average of 60 submissions every hour.  With 16 working days available from 12 February to 5 March inclusive, the day before the Council meeting, one person reading eight hours a day would have had no more than 36 seconds to review each submission.

Presumably this will be one of the issues to which the attention of the court will be directed if the case goes to trial.

Opinions on conscientious objection to induced abortion among Finnish medical and nursing students and professionals

Petteri Nieminen, Saara Lappalainen, Pauliina Ristimäki, Markku Myllykangas, Anne-Mari Mustonen

Abstract: Conscientious objection (CO) to participating in induced abortion is not present in the Finnish health care system or legislation unlike in many other European countries.

Methods: We conducted a questionnaire survey with the 1st- and the last-year medical and nursing students and professionals (548 respondents; response rate 66-100%) including several aspects of the abortion process and their relation to CO in 2013.

Results: The male medical respondents chose later time points of pregnancy than the nursing respondents when considering when the embryo/fetus ‘becomes a person’. Of all respondents, 3.5-14.1% expressed a personal wish to CO.

The medical professionals supported the right to CO more often (34.2%) than the nursing professionals (21.4%), while ≥62.4% could work with someone expressing CO. Yet ≥57.9% of the respondents anticipated social problems at work communities caused by CO.

Most respondents considered self-reported religious/ethical conviction to be adequate for CO but, at the same time, 30.1-50.7% considered that no conviction would be sufficient. The respondents most commonly included the medical doctor conducting surgical or medical abortion to be eligible to CO.

The nursing respondents considered that vacuum suction would be a better justification for CO than medical abortion. The indications most commonly included to potential CO were second-trimester abortions and social reasons.

Among the medical respondents, the men were more willing to grant CO also in case of a life-threatening emergency of the pregnant woman.

Conclusions: While the respondents mostly seemed to consider the continuation of adequate services important if CO is introduced, the viewpoint was often focused on the staff and surgical abortion procedure instead of the patients. The issue proved to be complex, which should be taken into consideration for legislation.


Nieminen P, Lappalainen S, Ristimäki P, Myllykangas M, Mustonen A-M. Opinions on conscientious objection to induced abortion among Finnish medical and nursing students and professionals. BMC Medical Ethics 2015, 16:17  doi:10.1186/s12910-015-0012-1

Ontario physicians seek court protection from CPSO policy

For immediate release

Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada

TORONTO – Dr. Diane Haak, President of the Christian Medical and Dental Society (CMDS), Woodstock emergency room physician Dr. Michelle Korvemaker, and CMDS executive director Larry Worthen announced, today, that they have filed documents asking the Court to declare that a new College of Physicians and Surgeons (CPSO) policy infringes upon Ontario doctors’ freedom of conscience.

“My conscience and religious beliefs do not allow me to engage in procedures to which I have a moral, ethical or religious objection. I, and all physicians in Ontario, have the right to practice medicine according to my conscience and free from state compulsion,” said Dr. Korvemaker.

Dr. Haak added, “This policy may force physicians who do not feel they can refer or perform procedures that go against their conscience to leave the practice of medicine.”

CMDS filed an application for declaratory relief asking the court to declare that portions of the CPSO’s March 6, 2015, policy breach sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Said Larry Worthen, ”We firmly believe that it is possible to ensure access to  controversial procedures and pharmaceuticals in Ontario without trampling upon the constitutional rights of physicians”

The CPSO policy violates freedoms of conscience and religion by requiring physicians and surgeons to make formal referrals when their consciences don’t permit their performing a procedure or treatment. The policy also violates Charter freedoms by requiring them to perform procedures when certain circumstances arise.

 CMDS Canada represents some 1600 physicians and dentists across Canada (http://www.cmdscanada.org). The Canadian Federation of Catholic Physician’s Societies is also supporting the application.

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For more information, please contact:      Larry Worthen  902-880-2495

Doctors make charter challenge on right to refuse care on religious grounds

Christian medical groups claim charter rights violated

CBC News

Christian medical professionals are challenging Ontario’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in court over a policy that requires doctors to provide or at least refer medical services, even when they clash with personal values.
In a statement of claim filed in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice, two groups  –  the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada and the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies  –  and five individual doctors say the college’s policy violates their rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. . . [Full text]

Christian doctors’ group says new college policy infringes on freedom of conscience

Christian Medical and Dental Society seeks protection from a College of Physicians rule requiring doctors to refer patients seeking abortions and, once it’s legal, euthanasia.

Toronto Star

Lauren Pelly

With physician-assisted suicide on the horizon, the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada is asking the Ontario Superior Court to declare that a new regulatory policy infringes upon doctors’ freedom of conscience.

The society, which represents close to 1,700 members, filed documents in court on Friday regarding the CPSO’s Professional Obligations and Human Rights policy that was announced on March 6. The policy means doctors who refuse to refer patients for services on religious and moral grounds, including abortions, could face discipline from their regulating body. . . [Full Text]

 

Doctors grapple with organ donation question

National Post

Sharon Kirkey

As the nation awaits legalized doctor-assisted death, the transplant community is grappling with a potential new source of life-saving organs  –  offered by patients who have chosen to die.

Some surgeons say every effort should be made to respect the dying wishes of people seeking assisted death, once the Supreme Court of Canada ruling comes into effect next year, including the desire to donate their organs.

But the prospect of combining two separate requests  –  doctor-assisted suicide and organ donation  –  is creating profound unease for others. Some worry those contemplating assisted suicide might feel a societal pressure to carry through with the act so that others might live, or that it could undermine struggling efforts to increase Canada’s mediocre donor rate. . . [Full text]

The doctors’ dilemma

National Post (Editorial)

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario recently voted to require doctors who refuse to provide certain services for reasons of conscience to provide referrals to doctors who will.

The new policy, enacted over the objections of the Ontario Medical Association, is a marked departure from the old. It paints medicine as a battlefield, with equal and opposite freedoms repeatedly colliding. Thus the college graciously agrees to limit physicians’ freedom of conscience in order to safeguard patients’ right of access.

The problem is that “right of access” is a college creation, while freedom of conscience is enshrined in the Charter of Rights. Doctors make informed decisions about treatment constantly. If they did not refuse to prescribe some treatments and suggest others, they would not be professionals. A patient storming into an office demanding amputation to treat a broken arm does not have “right of access.” . . . [Full text]

Bill OK’d by committee would give more information to patients

The State Journal Register

Doug Finke, State Capitol Bureau

A bill designed to ensure patients are given treatment information when their health-care providers invoke the state’s Right of Conscience Act was approved by the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday.

Under Senate Bill 1564, health-care providers would be required to establish written protocols that provide patients with information about the treatment options available and how they can get access to those options. [Full text]